It's possible, say analysts, that 2011's banner year for cattle prices could end with a weak December. But in this strong overall cattle market, "weak" is a relative term.

Analyst Troy Vetterkind, Vetterkind Cattle Brokerage, doesn't expect December-January fed-cattle prices to move much below $113-$115. In fact, his "worst-case scenario" doesn't fall much below $110.

That would be a shallow dip within an otherwise strong year. The Livestock Marketing Information Center (LMIC) in Denver is predicting a $113-$115 average price for 2011 slaughter steers, up from $95.38 for all of 2010 and $83.25 for 2009.

For 2011's fourth quarter, which ends in December, LMIC predicts a $117-$119 average, up from $100.28 a year ago and $83.29 two years ago. (LMIC Director Jim Robb suggested just two weeks after this early-October projection that it may have to be tweaked upward by quarter's end.)

What with holiday beef-buying finished for the year and the month's end bringing Christmas/New Year's slowdowns in slaughter, December can be a seasonally weak period for cattle anyway. But this year, extra pressure is expected from heavy summer placements, says Vetterkind.

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